South Africa’s Parliament has taken the first steps to create a Constitutional amendment which would allow the government to seize tracts of land owned by white farmers as part of a re-distribution scheme designed to enfranchise the country’s black majority. While the proposals have not been finalised, the move has captured global attention due to the fact that the move sounds similar to what was done in Zimbabwe under the leadership of Robert Mugabe.
As a result, thousands of Americans have signed a petition which would allow white South Africans affected by possible land re-distribution measures to receive an automatic right to live in the United States. Many well known American media figures including the conservative talk show host Michael Savage has endorsed the petition.
South African land re-distribution remains an ongoing discussion, not least because the law will likely have some loopholes and also because many young black South Africans would prefer to work in urban rather than rural vocations which means that it is anything but a settled issue. However, if the US were to allow white South Africans to become US citizens an live and work in America, there is a clear parallel to a situation that has long been compared to Apartheid South Africa, the political and socio-economic system in which the white minority enjoy privileges in every sector of society over the disenfranchised black majority.
“Israel” has long been called an Apartheid state due to the fact that a group of colonial Europeans have come to set up a governing entity on Palestinian land, all the while killing, imprisoning, torturing and stealing land and resources from the indigenous inhabitants. There are of course several differences between South African Apartheid and “Israel”. First of all, white South Africans did not seek to exterminate black and coloured South Africans as part of a military campaign. Instead, heavily armed police worked to subdue, disenfranchise and demoralise the black majority. By contrast, the ultimate goal of “Israel” is to completely eliminate Palestine and completely eliminate Palestinians through a combination of warfare, the creation of Palestinian refugees who will never be allowed to return and a acculturation programme designed to remove all traces of Palestinian history from the land. In this sense, “Israel” is far more heavy handed against Palestinians than the already heavy handed Apartheid regime was against the black majority. Of course, some “Israeli” officials deny this in the same way that some South African Apartheid officials denied that their regime was racist, but in both cases, facts on the ground speak louder than words.
There is another difference. While by the 1980s, the wider international community began turning against South African Apartheid, even in the US and UK which had been the largest supporters of the regime, today, the world remains divided on Palestine with most Muslim majority and left wing governments supporting Palestine, while the US and its allies support “Israel” and other countries including Russia, some of South East Asia, much of Africa and a great deal of Latin American countries remain somewhere in-between.
However, in the same way that Apartheid South Africa could only survive as a police state, so too can “Israel” only survive as a military-police state. If “Israel” were to end its brutal conscription laws, which have run afoul of religious Jews and many worldly young people at the same time, the regime would cease to exist. The result would be a South African style rainbow revolution where oppressed Palestinians of all faiths would demand a single state in which one man and one woman had one vote, just as South Africa does today.
At such a time, two things would likely happen. Some former “Israelis” would have to adjust themselves to the concept of citizenship as a matter of integration rather than one of segregation, while others might look to leave Palestine. If the US agrees to meet the demands of the petitioners who seek to allow white South Africans free passage to the US, this sets an important precedent for the would-be end of the “Israeli” colonial/Apartheid experiment. While any sensible agreement for a free and equal Palestine would welcome the contribution of all its people, which would also of course include all Palestinian refugees, for those who sought to live elsewhere, if America could open its doors for White South Africans, it can and should make the same offer for those who do not wish to live in a united and equal Palestine.
Ultimately, while modern ethics demand that colonial descendants in a foreign land should have the right to integrate into a majority rule system, modern ethics equally demand that countries that are politically allied with and culturally similar to the countries of origin of a colonial people, should re-open the doors to those who no longer wish to live in a free land they once colonised. Thus, if some white South Africans find black majority rule intolerable, then the US and EU should open their doors to such individuals with no questions asked. The same must be done when inevitably Palestine becomes a land with a single law for all people. If at such a time, former “Israelis” wish to return to the EU or live in a friendly United States, this too should be arranged with no questions asked.
Win-win solutions in colonial struggles that are fraught with ideology will always be resisted by some, but ultimately pragmatism is the best way to achieve any ethical resolution to long running conflicts.